‘Transformers: Rise of the Beasts’

In more ways than one, “Transformers: Rise of the Beasts,” the seventh installment in the toy-turned-movie series that debuted in 2007 (including the most recent “Bumblebee”), reaches back in time to present a straightforward style of giant-robot conflict. It’s a less-than-meets-the-eye summer movie machine that could use a writing tune-up and isn’t particularly well-oiled.

The key plot point, which goes beyond the introduction of the Maximals, is that the action is place in 1994. However, aside from the excellent soundtrack and a brief appearance of the O.J. Simpson trial, the audience may not even be aware of this fact.

The plot, such as it is, has the Autobots and the Maximals working together under the leadership of Optimus Prime (again voiced by Peter Cullen) to stop the evil Terrorcons and the world-devouring threat known as Unicron. For those who are familiar with Marvel lore, Unicron can be thought of as a poor-bot’s equivalent of Galactus.

Anthony Ramos (of “In the Heights” and “Hamilton” fame) and Dominique Fishback (most recently seen in the Amazon series “Swarm”) play the unfortunate humans who have been given the thankless task of not only saving the world but also to spend most of their screen time gazing upward with awe. Both actors are good but deserving of better. They end up teaming up with the dubious Optimus in search of a key that, if in the wrong hands, may let Unicron free on an unwary galaxy and prevent the Autobots from returning to their base of operations.

Dominique Fishback and Anthony Ramos join the Autobots in "Transformers: Rise of the Beasts."

Anthony Ramos and Dominique Fishback join the Autobots as well in “Transformers: Rise of the Beasts.”

The breadth and scope of the robot conflicts, which are remarkable in their technical virtuosity if characteristically chaotic, are what really matter once you get past the celebrity voices added to the mix, a roster that includes Michelle Yeoh, Pete Davidson, Peter Dinklage, and Ron Perlman.

Unfortunately, practically every intermission in the film drags, particularly when the characters are the focus. In addition, much like a number of the sequels released this summer, “Rise of the Beasts” doesn’t seem satisfied to wrap up its plot without setting the stage for more, which saps enthusiasm for a product that has such a strong assembly-line vibe.

Granted, “Transformers” has always acted more as a demonstration for what 21st-century visual effects can do than anything else, given its origins in the Hasbro toys (and the animated TV show generated in the 1980s), and it practically has to be assessed on that curve.

However, even by those standards, “Rise of the Beasts” has the endearing wit that partially lifted “Bumblebee,” and the attempt to make Davidson’s character Mirage into tenacious comedic relief largely fails.

Steven Caple Jr. (“Creed II”) has taken over directing duties from Michael Bay, who produced the first five films, with no apparent shift in tone or approach. The major benefit of “Transformers” might just be that it’s been six years since “The Last Knight,” which might lead to some pent-up desire for the movie among those celebrating.

However, except from these devoted followers, everything here seems to be well past its prime.

The US premiere of “Transformers: Rise of the Beasts” is scheduled on June 9. The rating is PG-13.

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